‘He says collaborate. That’s a very strong term.”
This is the somewhat diplomatic reaction I get from professor, film programmer and author Eric A. Goldman when asked about a forthcoming book by Ben Urwand and Harvard University Press that accuses the Jewish heads of Hollywood’s film studios of not just self-censoring, but taking creative marching orders from the Third Reich. Urwand’s book has a title designed to make headlines.
Few have yet been able to read “The Collaboration: Hollywood’s Pact With Hitler,” but after an in-depth rundown of its shocking allegations were published in Tablet on June 10, a number of other outlets, including the New York Times, are running with the story.
Having recently read Goldman’s “The American Jewish Story Through Cinema,” which goes into great detail about how the Jewish-run Hollywood studios were reluctant to allow any on-screen mention representation of Jews during the lead-up to World War II, I was somewhat surprised by the reaction. As I put it to Goldman, “this is news?”
While Goldman is intrigued to read the new allegations, he points not just to his own work but to that of Brandeis University professor Thomas Doherty’s book “Hollywood and Hitler.” The fact that the studios rolled over on content that “wouldn’t play” for the German market has not only already been discussed, but Goldman is concerned that the overly scandalous title might lead people to wrong conclusions.
“We tend to lose sight of the fact that movie studios have stock holders,” Goldman counters. Germany, a huge market, represented a major foothold in Europe, and when new codes were put into place in the 1930s, addressing them was as much of a business decision as anything else.
“Trade, yes. But collaborate?”
“There are adjustments made to films right now for the Chinese market,” he adds.
In 2012, Film District changed the villain of “Red Dawn” from China to North Korea in post-production. Sony/TriStar added in substantially more of the China-set scenes to the film “Looper” even though the filmmaker had removed them from the film for “pacing issues.”
Furthermore, Goldman insists that none of the Hollywood studios were likely to make a film that spoke explicitly about Jews or Jewish issues anyway. The only film at that time that dared portray a Jew was “The House of Rothschild,” produced by non-Jew Darryl Zanuck (who later produced “Gentleman’s Agreement.”) One has to strain and squint at “The Life of Emile Zola” to catch an explicit reference to Jews – shocking when you consider this was a film about the Dreyfus Affair, one of Europe’s most notorious cases of anti-Semitism.
Goldman’s book goes into great detail about the psychology behind these decisions (put bluntly, “don’t make waves”) but his research does not automatically negate any of the allegations Urwand makes in “The Collaboration.”
Urwand’s most disturbing claim is that Jewish-led MGM invested in factories that made munitions.
“How could Jews ever support this?” Goldman muses at the thought, though the question of “who knew what when” is one historians have been struggling with for decades. The book also promises more insight into the role of Georg Gyssling, the Third Reich’s consul in Los Angeles who would see rough cuts of films and offer suggestions for changes in tune with German audiences.
“One thing is certain,” Goldman agrees, concerning the worldwide coverage of the upcoming expose. “He’s got one hell of a publicist!”
The book is scheduled to hit shelves September 9.